SCOTTISH primary teachers should not be allowed into the profession without a science qualification, according to one of the country's most prestigious academic bodies.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh believes further damage will be inflicted on the subject in schools unless current entry requirements for trainee teachers are changed.

The society – Scotland's national academy of science – also backed calls for primary teachers to have a maths Higher as part of the same drive to improve standards.

The calls are made in a submission to the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which is currently consulting on changes to teacher education.

The GTCS has suggested primary teachers should have a qualification in modern languages to improve teaching in this area.

However, the Royal Society of Edinburgh has questioned this approach, suggesting it neglects other areas of the curriculum.

Last year, a report by the Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group (SEEAG) highlighted primary teachers' limited knowledge and understanding of mathematics and science and the resulting lack of confidence in these areas.

The Trends in International Maths and Science Survey (TIMSS) also raised concerns about Scotland's performance in maths and science at primary level.

The Royal Society submission states: "We are surprised and disappointed at the notable absence in the proposals of any requirement for those applying to enter programmes of primary teacher education to have a science qualification. Given the conclusions drawn by the SEEAG report - it is clear to us that a firm grounding in mathematics is not only important in its own right, but also essential to make progress. Surely there cannot be an assumption that entrants to primary teaching will be weak in science and mathematics and that this just has to be accepted as a fact of life? If this were to be the case, it would have serious implications."

Other prestigious bodies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and the Society of Biology have backed the call in a separate sub-mission to the GTCS consultation.

The Learned Societies' Group on Scottish Science Education said the omission of a science qualification was "notable" and "disappointing".

It states: "We recognise and understand the rationale for the GTCS proposing a requirement that applicants for primary programmes possess - a languages qualification.

"However, without a similar requirement for a science qualification, this would appear to send an alarming signal about the relative importance of science subjects in comparison with languages."

Earlier this month, Scottish educationalist Keir Bloomer said primary teachers should have a maths Higher as part of a wider drive to improve basic numeracy in the classroom.

Currently, students who enter primary school teacher training courses in Scotland only need the equivalent of a Standard Grade in maths. However, they must have a Higher in English.

A GTCS spokesman said: "We welcome all contributions to this consultation. We will consider each response carefully and publish our findings in due course."

l The Scottish Resource Centre for Women, a project based at Edinburgh Napier University to support women working in science, engineering and technology, has been awarded a grant of £442,890 from the Big Lottery Fund Scotland.